I’ve long said that link building boils down to two steps. Step one: find a site you want a link from. Step two: get a link on that site.
Realistically, that’s all there is to actually building links. Everything else that is discussed, argued, implied, utilized, implemented, etc. – it’s all to aid those two fundamental processes. Either you’re attempting to make it easier to find sites you want a link from, or you’re making it easier to get a link from a site.
Today I want to break away from the gimmicks, the tactics, the tips, and the tricks. If there’s one thing Penguin was designed to do, it was to snuff out low-quality and manipulative links designed to be quickly accumulated through scaled gimmicks.
Today, the only links left worth pursuing are real links. Links given freely by another human curating a useful website relevant to your own. Links given with an understanding of their value, a knowing vote of confidence.
That doesn’t mean tactics aren’t valuable. Guest blogging, broken link building, mention links, interviews, infographics, and partnerships all are still valuable, have their place in any online marketing campaign, and can definitely result in great links.
But I want to discuss the most important thing you can ever do when trying to build a link on a site. I want to discuss what it means to be persuasive in link building.
What Being Persuasive Means
In link building, being persuasive means one thing and one thing only: convincing another website it’s in their own interest to link to you.
Every other tactic, every other avenue, and every other attempt at being persuasive doesn’t match the power of convincing the other person that what you want is actually in their own interest. If you can make the pitch about them instead of about you, you’re much more likely to get what you want.
People don’t want to be sold things. No one wants to be convinced why they should buy something. They want to be told why they need something – why this product, opportunity, or investment will help them. This is especially true in link building. Google’s well established, and anyone with a successful site knows exactly the value of a link. And there’s no such thing as a free lunch.
So orient the pitch to them instead of you, your client, your product, your page, your brand, or your offering. Instead make it about how this helps their product, their page, their brand, their offering, or their audience.
The easiest way to convince someone that it will benefit them is for it to be true. There needs to be valid reason why it will benefit the other website to link.
But it’s no simple thing to explain succinctly, honestly, and correctly why it’s worth another website’s while to link to yours (or your client’s).
You need to do your research.
The Necessary Research
To be persuasive in a link pitch you need to understand the motivations of the website you’re outreaching to – so you can speak to those motivations – and you need to understand the website you’re representing.
The most important thing you need to do when representing a website or company is be sure you’re representing that company accurately. That you’re making good impressions, and honest portrayals.
To represent a company convincingly and persuasively, you’ll need to deeply understand both the website you’re representing and the website you’re outreaching to.
Here’s the list of necessary research you’ll need to do in order to represent a business persuasively:
1. Understand the Business
- Marketing Personas
2. Understand the Industry
- Pain points
3. The Target Website
4. The Target Website’s Audience
- Pain points
The point of all this research, of understanding the company you’re representing, and who you’re representing them to, is for you to determine and understand motivations.
Because you can’t explain why something is valuable to another party if you don’t understand their motivations. And you can’t do so honestly if you don’t understand who, why, and what you’re representing.
The Next Step
Ideally you’ll find an under-tapped or under-promoted resource for the website you’re representing, and work to build links to that. This resource could take a thousand forms:
- Valuable tutorials or guides
- Industry-related tools
- Unique images
- Case studies
- Unique data
- Industry interviews
- Videos pertinent to the industry
- Etc. etc.
It’s not so much the form the resource takes, although that will of course shape how you promote it, but the fact that it exists and it’s underperforming.
From there you’ll want to identify potential target websites and the humans that exist behind them. You’ll want to determine all the previously mentioned criteria about said website. You’ll want to know the answer to these core questions:
- Why does the website exist?
- How does the website exist (where does the money come for? Does it generate its own revenue?)
- Who is the website’s core audience?
- How will your offering (your resource) help the website in question achieve a goal?
Once you’re able to determine motivations, all that’s left is to speak to those motivations. Outreach – typically through email – and let the person behind the website know about your resource and why it’s in their own interest to create the link.
A few great guides to help with the actual act of outreach, now that you’re able to communicate persuasively:
- Stephanie Beadell’s "The Smart SEO’s Guide to Effective Outreach."
- Andrew Dennis’ "A Basic Guide to Effective Outreach."
- Nick Bernard’s "How to Write an Effective Outreach Email."
Of course, that’s just one way to build links. And the only limit in building links is your own creativity.
Putting It All Together
Building valuable links today requires interacting with humans that have worthwhile websites and gaining editorial links.
Because webmasters are all savvy to the value of links, they’re unlikely to link without just cause. The best way to convince another webmaster to link to your site is to convince them it’s in their own interest to do so.
That means understanding their motivations and goals, and speaking to those. Which requires research.
Once you’re able to pitch a link with an audience-first mindset, instead of focusing on yourself, you’re ready to outreach. And if you’re going to outreach, and you’ve put in the due diligence, you should be able to effectively and convincingly communicate to build the links you need.